The uterine lining, the endometrium, normally grows inside the uterus. This lining helps develop the placenta during pregnancy, and it’s also the area where the blastocyst (developing embryo) is normally implanted during the first few days of pregnancy after fertilization.
During a normal, healthy menstrual cycle, the endometrial tissue inside the uterus thickens then breaks down — this breakdown of the uterine lining is what causes normal bleeding during menstruation.
When this tissue that normally grows inside the uterus actually grows outside the uterus, endometriosis occurs. This tissue still behaves like the endometrium inside the uterus — it still thickens, breaks down and causes bleeding.
When this occurs outside the uterus, you may experience pain and even infertility.
Common Endometriosis Symptoms
The most commonly experienced symptom of endometriosis is pain—pain in the pelvic region, and/or lower back and abdomen. Usually, this pain coincides with your menstrual period. Typically, women who experience endometriosis describe their pain as much more intense than the usual pain or cramping involved with menstruation.
Other types of pain that often occur with endometriosis include pain with urination and bowel movements, usually when you’re on your period. Women with endometriosis often experience pain during or after sex as well.
Endometriosis can cause heavier than usual periods and unexpected bleeding between periods. If you’re experiencing an abnormal amount of bleeding, see a doctor as soon as soon as you can.
Infertility & Other Symptoms
Women seeking treatment for infertility could be suffering with undiagnosed endometriosis— fertility problems are often associated with endometriosis.
Some other side effects that you may experience with endometriosis include gastrointestinal issues like constipation, bloating, diarrhea and nausea, most often during menstrual periods. Fatigue is also common in women with endometriosis.
When to See a Doctor
If you’ve experienced irregularities in your menstrual cycle including increased pain or bleeding, you should consult a healthcare professional. While not conclusive, these signs indicate that something is out of balance which may require medical attention.
Make an appointment to see a healthcare professional — don’t wait for increasingly severe symptoms to occur.
Risk Factors & Causes of Endometriosis
While endometriosis isn’t a widespread condition, it is estimated that this condition may affect approximately 11% of women ages 15-44 and is most commonly diagnosed in women in their 20s and 30s.
Some common risk factors for endometriosis include:
- Family history of endometriosis
- Periods lasting longer than 7 days
- Short menstrual cycles of less than 27 days
- Uterine polyps or other abnormal growths
Lowering Your Risk
Currently, the exact cause of endometriosis is unknown. Given its symptoms and risk factors, one way to reduce the risk of endometriosis is to put yourself in a greater state of health.
This means getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet that limits or restricts processed foods, reducing alcohol and caffeine and communicating regularly with your gynecologist about your health.
How Advanced Gynecology Can Help: Treatment Options for Endometriosis
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with endometriosis, or if you’re experiencing some of its telltale signs, Advanced Gynecology is here for you.
Our board certified team of women’s health experts are ready to help you with a range of options from pain management solutions to surgical procedures to hormone therapy to a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. We will counsel you about the best options for you and your health.
In the meantime, it can be helpful to take anti-inflammatory NSAID medications like over-the-counter Advil or Aleve. Heating pads, warm baths and gentle exercise may also reduce some of your pain.